Why I Decided to Get a Mom Tattoo (& No, It Isn’t Just Ink on My Arm)

13599976_1003247303086546_4259878044532997191_nMy babies. They consume my thoughts and, sometimes, my dreams, too. When I’m away from them, I’m thinking: Are they OK? Are they happy? Are they hungry? Are they tired?  Do they miss me? Do they not miss me? Do they know I’m thinking about them right now? Or, sometimes I’m just remembering a sweet (or horrible) moment from the night before.  When we’re together, I try to be as present as possible; taking in the way my daughter’s hair puffs up in curls around her face, and marveling at my son’s long, strong legs and boundless energy.

My babies. They will always be my babies even when they are 40-years-old and too big to curl up in my lap. I am willing time to move as slowly as possible. I still fold my son into a cradled position in my lap so I can rock him and smother him with kisses; me, remembering his tiny little body and sweet smell when he naturally rested in my arms this way as a baby; him, giggling hysterically, insisting he’s not a baby. This is harder to do with my almost-2-year-old. She’s always moving. Still, I pin her down and savor our cuddles whenever I can get them.

They are my everything. When I decided to get a tattoo last week, there was no question that it would be something to symbolize my babies.

I’ve wanted to get a tattoo since high school, but I could never committ to getting anything permanently inked on my body. At one point, I talked about getting the Tasmanian devil tattooed on my butt. There was a rumor that an older girl at my school had gotten that tattoo and it just sounded cool. Of course, what sounds cool in high school isn’t actually cool at all. Thank god I never went through with it.

The closest I ever came to a tatto was getting my belly button pierced shortly after graduating from high school. My twin sister and I secretly drove down to OSU campus to have it done; she was happy to enable my rebellion but totally unwilling to follow in my footsteps, so I sat in the chair and got the piercing alone, with her holding my hand. I’ll never forget the closeness we felt in that moment.

Now, as an adult, I live in Brooklyn (not an Ohio suburb). There are plenty of places to get tattoos, and I can get as many as I want. So, last week, my husband and I hired a babysitter and we walked a few blocks to a tattoo shop that a friend recommended. Call it a fresh date night idea. I would get inked, and then we would try out a new restaurant that had just been written up in The New York Times. We arrived at Triple Diamond Tattoo, in Gowanus, and our friend Adrien was there, preparing to get his second tattoo. A good omen, I told myself.

We met with Jon Jon, the owner, and he sketched out a beautiful, original design that I loved.

13439134_1002952173116059_8948552717230252426_nBecause I endured two C-Sections, I convinced myself that a small tattoo on my wrist wouldn’t hurt. I was wrong. It f*cking hurt. At one point, feeling sweaty, queasy, and faint, I croaked that I needed a break. Jon Jon gave me smarties and soda and made me feel less lame by telling me stories of people who actually passed out in the chair. Turns out this gregarious, witty Brit was also compassionate. My stomach settled and I texted my friend Meirav to distract myself while Jon Jon finished his work. When it was all over, I looked down at my wrist and loved the delicate infinity circle and bold letters.

I’ve had my tattoo for a little over a week now, and I find myself staring at it all the time. I love seeing their names on my wrist. My babies.

13590354_1004042569673686_3686533839715310867_nMason was so excited when he saw it that we applied a temporary tattoo to his arm and snapped this pic (above). Then, we had this conversation:

Mason: Will you still have that tattoo even when you’re a grandma?

Me: I will. It will never go away.

Mason: I want the exact same tattoo as yours but with the words mommy and daddy on it, too.

Me: If you still want that tattoo when you’re 18 I’ll take you and pay for it.

Mason: Yay!!!

To my future daughter-in-law: Not to worry, he’ll be over it by then. Just like I got over the Tasmanian Devil butt thing.

7 Ways I’ll Impress the Other Parents at the Preschool Party

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My husband is getting ready to go on a trip to Bordeaux, France. For work. Sounds tough, right? He’ll be eating and drinking his way through one of the most famous wine regions in the world. A wine region that’s been on my bucket list since I worked as a travel editor at a wine magazine years ago. But, hey, I’m not jealous. I’ll be home with my two lovely children — completely outnumbered and on the verge of losing my sh*t. Alone. For a week.

But here’s the best part. It just so happens that while my hubs is traveling, our preschool /daycare is hosting the big end of year party in a giant park in our neighborhood. A park I would normally never attempt to take my children to by myself. But, hey, I’m a strong, capable mom. Rules are for breaking. And, this time, I’m breaking them big. In fact, I’m not just going to show up with my kids. I’ll be sure that we make an impression by doing these things…

1. Roll in with goldfish cracker goo crusted on my stroller (and my toddler). Yes, other people’s kids might eat those cheesy little crackers as much as mine do, but my stroller will be more caked in the gooey, gummy mess than any other stroller there. And my toddler will match. #DreamBig

2. Show off my mad juice box-contributing skills. That’s right, I’m bringing juice boxes this year, y’all. Not home-baked brownies, or home-cooked mac’ n’ cheese. Juice boxes. I might even spring for the organic kind. Goals.

3. Let my 5-year-old ride the carousel as many times in a row as he wants. Because if he’s doing that then he’s not running off and hiding behind trees, chatting up weird park lurkers, or smacking toddlers in the face with water balloons. And yes, he can scream at the top of his lungs while doing it (what parent finds that annoying?).

4. Forget our blanket so we can squat on a friend’s. More dirty footprints on the blanket =  more fun right? And if there’s one thing my kids are awesome at, it’s leaving dirty footprints (and an array of other marks) wherever they go. Who wants to share with us?

5. Be a social butterfly, especially around parents I don’t know. See, it takes a village. So by being super obnixous outgoing — say, interrupting conversations to introduce myself loudly to strangers — I’m reinforcing those community values. You’re welcome, people!

6. Let the other dads do my husband’s bidding. I will have my hands full. So, I figure there will be plenty of dads who will be more than happy to step up and take on my kids as well, say by holding my son’s hand during his unlimited trips on the carousel or changing my daughter’s poopy diaper after she eats all that mac ‘n’ cheese someone else brings.

7. Tweet everything we eat, do, and say during the party. Because everyone will be dying to know what’s up at the preschool party. And parents love having photos of their children broadcast to potential predators on social media, amirite?!

Hope to see you there! Tip: Don’t park too close to our icky stroller.

When Did My Baby Outgrow the Baby Playground?

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I had to have girl time with my daughter no matter what. Just the two of us without the boys. It was an urge that hit yesterday while I was at the office, and it nearly overwhelmed me. I imagined it was the way an addict must feel, and I’m not totally sure what triggered it. It was Monday, so perhaps I was still mourning the end of my weekend, a time when I am as immersed in my kids’ lives physically as I am mentally (because, of course, the mental pull never leaves me, no matter where I am).

When it was time to leave work, I raced to the train. Perhaps sensing that my desperation went beyond the normal panic to get to daycare and after-school care before the late fees kick in and the caregivers turn hostile, the subway gods aligned and zipped me back to Brooklyn in a record 30 minutes. That absolutely never happens ever. Normally I’m pacing the platform in Times Square wondering how the hell I’m going to do it. I scooped up my daughter from daycare (my husband agreed to pick up the big kid), said to hell with our normally air-tight evening schedule, and hit the playground.

And you guys, it was the most amazing time ever. My spirits lifted and I just felt insanely happy on this random, sunny Monday.

My daughter wandered around, baggie of goldfish crackers in hand, curls puffed up in a cloud, exploring her surroundings. We chilled on the swings for a bit, and then walked back home (on her command), dropped off the stroller (also on her command), and walked back to the playground. After circling its periphery — twice, so she could crunch mulch piled up alongside a fence with her purple tennis shoes — she headed into the gated off baby section of the playground…and hightailed it to the mini jungle gym.

As she was climbing up the step to the slide (an anthill, really), I caught a few parents giving us sidelong looks. Then my little girl grabbed the bar above the slide, bunched her knees up, and started swinging back and forth, laughing hysterically before finally launching herself down the mini incline. A dad next to us said, “Whoa!” and pulled his son away from her.

I glanced around and suddenly it hit me: My baby was twice the size of the other kids there. She was walking — no running — while they were crawling and tottering around. At 21-months-old, she is still a baby in my mind, but in fact she is a toddler. There is no place for her on the baby playground anymore. And here’s the thing: She had already moved on, even though I didn’t want to see it.

She’s probably my last baby and  I find myself clinging to the past more with her than I did with my older child; I’m no longer anxious for the milestones to pass. I wish I could make every precious moment last twice as long. I celebrate her achievements while my heart breaks a little with each one; as a second-time mom, I know too well how quickly it all flies by, and I hate that there’s nothing I can do to slow it down.

So, I lingered where we no longer belonged for a few more minutes. I let my girl hurtle herself down the baby slide a few more times while chatting up a mom I knew (who was also nervously steering her kid away from mine) before I finally ushered my daughter to the big kid jungle gym. The one my 5-year-old plays on with his friends. I could have stayed where we were, sure, but then I would have been that asshole mom with the too big kid in the mini playground making all the other parents uncomfortable. No thanks.

As I watched my little girl giggling her way down the big slides, the ones with the twists and turns and slick surfaces, I wistfully looked over at the baby playground and all the minis that were still mini enough to be there. I felt the dull ache of loss. The loss of my baby’s babyhood. The loss I’ve been raging against since she abandoned breastfeeding seven months ago. The loss I could no longer deny.

The ache didn’t last long though. I wouldn’t let it. Instead, I let the gratitude that I was feeling about getting this special time with my girl wash over me. The gratitude I feel for being a mom. The gratitude I feel for being her mom, as well as her brother’s mom. It was a sparkling, sunny day and we were in a neighborhood — a place — that we both absolutely love. We were thrilled to be together. So I had to let a tiny, very tiny sliver of something go. There is still so much to look forward to ahead.

To All the Haters (An Open Letter)

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I’ve worked in the viciously critical world of women’s lifestyle publishing in New York City for 11 years. So yeah, I’ve come up against my share of haters. There were plenty of them before I grew up and moved East, too; in fact I’d say that the haters I met during my childhood and young twenties have been the most valuable to me. Because here’s the thing: Although they definitely made my life difficult at one point, they also taught me some pretty important things about life and yes, even myself. Thanks to them, I’ll have words of wisdom that I can pass on to my own children one day. So with sincere appreciation, I give a shout out to the people who have gotten in a punch (or three)…

1. The dismissive kindergarten teacher
Remember when you stood in front of the class and demanded to know who peed on the bathroom floor? It was circa 1982, and Mrs. V., that was me. You made me wait to go to the bathroom and by the time you finally let me go my little 5-year-old fingers just couldn’t get my overalls unbuttoned and pulled down quickly enough. So yeah, I peed all over the bathroom floor, washed my hands, and returned to my table. I was working up the courage to tell you when you brought the issue up in front of the entire class. So I kept my mouth shut and sat in wet corduroy all day, which sucked. Lesson learned: Never suffer in silence. Or put a little kid in overalls for school.

2. The bully on the bus in middle school
You were vicious and relentless in your taunts because you thought a boy who was a friend was something more. He wasn’t and, believe me, you could have had him. In fact, I would have told you that if I hadn’t been completely terrified of you, and all the mean rumors you spread about me. Of course, I forgave you years ago and I’m even thankful for those bus rides from hell, for I learned that no boy is worth drama. Especially one who would let his friend be bullied and not stick up for her.

3. The creepy roommate freshman year (and the bitch or two that came after her)
Bitches be crazy, especially when they’re sleep deprived, living with strangers in small spaces, fueled by booze and nicotine, fighting with their frat boy hook ups, and stressed about exams. But surviving four years of petty bullshit gave me the courage to live on my own after college and ultimately move to a new city where I didn’t know anyone. Because if I could survive that roller coaster of tears and love and hate, I could most definitely do anything. Thanks, girls!

4. The English professor who didn’t believe in me
You know who you are, the one who said girls like me should “edit stuff for one of those women’s magazine”? You said it after grading a paper of mine that you didn’t like, and in a tone that implied you meant it as an insult. You thought I wasn’t serious about literary criticism, I suppose. And, OK, I probably wasn’t; I wanted to be a news journalist, not a literary critic. Or maybe it was just your crappy teaching. But know this: There are some pretty great women’s magazines out there, so I didn’t take your words as a slight. Here’s something else. I did go on to edit for a lot of different magazines and websites and now I don’t just “edit stuff,” I run one. So thankyouverymuch for the motivation.

5. The straight up wicked boss
There have been two of you in my career, and I’m not the only one you’ve been awful to. You demanded that your staff work until all hours of the night, and on weekends, criticizing everything we did. You belittled us, you screamed at us, and you tried to break us (but you couldn’t). We moved on and we earned better jobs with amazing bosses. Thank you for inspiring us to be better to those that we’d manage later in our careers, and for teaching us how to never treat others anywhere, in any situation, no matter what. Later, mean girls!

© Heather Morgan Shott

I Was Terrified to Have a Daughter (Now I Can’t Imagine My Life Without Her)

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I was pregnant again, and there was no question that I was having a boy. I told everyone who asked that I was certain of it. I already had a son, who was 3-years-old at the time. The child I had miscarried shortly before becoming pregnant this time around was a boy. And, I felt that it was no coincidence: For decades, boys have filled generation after generation of my husband’s family. It wasn’t that we were opposed to having a daughter. It just didn’t occur to any of us that a baby girl would enter our clan anytime soon. I believe my in-laws even said, quite earnestly, “Another boy!” when we announced our happy news over the holidays.

My body, however, was trying to tell me that I had it all wrong, at least according to the old wives tales. I didn’t listen, in much the same way that I dismissed friends who told me that I could have a girl. With this baby, my thighs and butt seemed to be expanding as quickly as my belly was. With my son, I was all belly. I suddenly craved sweets, even though I wanted salty foods all the time when I was expecting my son. The sickness was also dramatically better this time around. Although I did experience queasiness all day long, it wasn’t the gut-churning misery that got so bad I had to be hospitalized twice when I was pregnant the first time. Every pregnancy is different, I rationalized. That stuff isn’t true anyway.

Ten weeks later, I found out that I was having a girl.

Although I said I didn’t care about the baby’s gender — after the heartbreak of having a miscarriage, I was just so grateful for the opportunity to have another child — I do realize now, looking back, that a part of me was terrified to have a daughter. A son was easy, in my mind; I knew how to parent a boy. But girls? I had no clue, because here’s the thing: My own mom and I have always had a deeply complicated relationship, and I feared repeating that cycle with my own daughter. Yes, we love each other. But there have also been years of arguments and alienation and heartache. The thought of having a relationship like that with my own baby girl was more than I could bear.

So, I thought back to my years of therapy. The same therapy that commenced during my first pregnancy. It was a time of incredible darkness and overwhelming anxiety, even though it should have been filled with light and happiness. I so desperately wanted a baby, but once I became pregnant I turned into someone I didn’t even recognize. Through therapy, I learned that my anxieties and fears originated from my difficult childhood, which included an absentee father. I was convinced I’d screw it all up, if I wasn’t perfect at this parenting thing. And how could I be, if even the idea of becoming a mom terrified me? I felt so incredibly flawed.

By the time I left therapy, of course, I knew that perfection isn’t a thing when it comes to parenting. Thank god, right? There’s enough pressure that comes with parenthood as it is, without the awful P Word. I also felt confident in my ability to give my son and any future children the happy childhood I didn’t have, without repeating the damaging patterns and behaviors that I had experienced in my past. Yes, even if I happened to have a daughter one day.

My baby girl was born on August 8, 2014. She is amazing — the funniest, sweetest, most ornery person I’ve ever met. She recently caused an $800 clog to our toilet (by flushing a hairpin) and then, minutes after we paid the bill, we caught her scribbling on our kitchen table with markers, giggling manically. She loves her big brother with her whole heart, to the depth of her soul. She calls out to him first thing in the morning and, when he comes home after school, she runs to him and hugs him like her life depends on it. In the morning, she’ll climb on my lap and snuggle up, curls askew, pillowy lips brushing my cheek. She loves her daddy fiercely, too.

Now I look at her and think, How could I possibly live without you? The same thought runs through my mind when I look at her brother. The love that I have for them consumes me. Yes, they exhaust me and annoy me and piss me off and bring me to my breaking point, but they also fill me with incomparable joy. And although there’s plenty that I can’t predict about our future together, there are certain things that I can guarantee them. I promise to love them unconditionally for as long as I live. They will never have cause to question my love. I will always be there to support them, no matter what. My support will never be conditional, either. I will always be there to listen to them, to brush away their tears, and to hug them. I will always be their Mom. They are my everything.

© Heather Morgan Shott

How I Found the Courage to Get Pregnant Again After Severe Morning Sickness

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I found out I was pregnant with Mason while I was sitting on an exam table, waiting for a steroid shot for my eczema. My doctor wouldn’t give it to me until I took a pregnancy test…and I was totally annoyed. Yes, my period was a few days late, but my cycles had never been super regular. Yes, we had been trying for a baby, but we were taking a break over the holidays. I thought, if I hadn’t gotten pregnant after deliberately having sex during my most fertile days, how could I possibly get pregnant having sex at random times? (Of course, this kind of logic is exactly why “Teen Mom” exists.)

I knew my doctor was just being cautious (and actually doing exactly what she should have done), but I didn’t want to hear what I was sure I already knew — that I wasn’t pregnant. I even rehearsed saying “Oh well, we haven’t been trying for that long!” nonchalantly in my head so that I wouldn’t burst into tears when she delivered the bad news. That’s how badly I wanted a baby. Instead, she shocked me by telling me something unbelievably amazing: I was pregnant. Pregnant!

I left her office elated, dazed, and, OK, itching (steroids are a no-no when you’re pregnant). But who cared about a little eczema? I was having a baby! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I spent the next two days on a baby high. I was bursting with happiness, holding my special secret close. I couldn’t think about anything but that precious little bean growing in my belly; I shopped for maternity clothes online and made a list of baby names I loved. We were traveling to my hometown for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to share our thrilling news.

But then, three days after finding out I was pregnant, I was vomiting in a toilet in a public bathroom at the airport. I had never felt so sick (I had felt queasy all day but had convinced myself it would pass). I couldn’t even board our flight. The airline agent took one look at me and gave us vouchers for a future flight; I imagine he was relieved I wasn’t getting on that plane.
Chris and I took a taxi back home and I spent the entire night throwing up. I become so weak I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom; I got sick in plastic bags by the bed. My ob-gyn sent me to the hospital the next morning, and I was treated with anti-nausea medication and fluids by IV. We kept our fingers crossed that it was just a virus with maybe a touch of morning sickness. We returned home…and an hour or so later I was sicker than ever. We went back to the hospital the next morning and stayed there all of Christmas Day.

“Welcome to nine months of hell!” the ER doctor joked. I was only five-weeks-pregnant, but unfortunately that doctor had just accurately described the next eight months of my life (fortunately I didn’t know that at the time).

In the months that followed, I vomited frequently and dealt with acid reflux so severe I had to sleep sitting up. It even hurt to drink water. On top of that I developed severe anxiety and depression and became someone I didn’t even recognize (it’s impossible to be happy when you’re hellishly sick for nine months). When I delivered Mason at 39 weeks, I was only 7 pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight.

It was an absolute miracle that my boy was born perfectly healthy after all that; I loved him with all my heart and I loved being a mom. But I swore that I’d never go through another pregnancy. I even contemplated having my tubes tied (my mom talked me out of it).

Then a surprising thing happened a few years later. I became a pregnancy editor for a national parenting magazine/website, and I began to think of pregnancy in a more positive light. Yes, it was hell for me…but the actual process of growing a baby was pretty damn amazing. I could finally separate my ordeal from the beautiful reality of what my body had accomplished. I was enamored with my boy and I longed to give him a brother or a sister, as well as parent another child. Those feelings grew until I was willing to jump off a cliff (yes, that’s what going through with another pregnancy felt like to me) and go through it again. So, I took the leap.

In August 2014, I gave birth to my daughter, Poppy Belle. Shockingly, blessedly, my pregnancy with her was a total breeze compared to my pregnancy with Mason. I experienced only moderate morning sickness during my first trimester. When the all-day queasiness ended suddenly at 13 weeks I was positive I had miscarried again, but nope, all was well. I felt amazed every time I enjoyed my dinner (I’m pregnant…and I can eat without horrible pain and vomiting!). I slept lying down (Miraculous!). And I felt unbelievably happy.

I was lucky. Incredibly lucky. Some women, like Kate Middleton, aren’t so lucky. (The Duchess experienced severe morning sickness, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, during both of her pregnancies.) I admire her — and all the other moms out there who have had HG — for being brave enough to get pregnant again. It’s not an easy decision at all, but I imagine that everyone who has taken that leap is grateful that they did. I know I sure am.

©Heather Morgan Shott, as first published on Momtastic

Stop Calling My Baby Girl ‘Fat’

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When I had my first child five years ago, I constantly endured comments about how “skinny” he was. Our pediatrician, however, assured us that he was fine. His rail-thin build was genetic. He was growing up rather than out. My husband and I were both really skinny as kids, so our boy was (and still is) tall and thin. Yet, the digs I constantly heard on the playground or at daycare or even among friends — “That can’t be normal! Are you sure he’s healthy?” “HA, he’s half the size of so and so who are the same age. How weird!” — really got to me. I was an anxious new mom and I took all the criticism to heart. Despite our pediatrician’s reassurance, I’d think: It’s my fault, because I didn’t breastfeed him long enough! I must have done something wrong when I was pregnant! OMG!

Instead of criticizing myself, I should have stopped to wonder why these other moms thought it was OK to pick on my kid. But, I was too busy blaming myself and secretly envying moms with “chubby” babies. Nobody ever called their babies too skinny! Of course, when I finally got to know some of those moms I learned that they had the opposite problem: People called their babies fat. One mom in my yoga class told me that her pediatrician gave her a lecture about childhood obesity when her baby was 4-months-old. What was she supposed to do? Refuse to feed him? And really, people called their babies fat?!

Now, five years later, I have a baby that people call “fat” and it cuts just as deep as when I heard that her brother was “too skinny.” My wonderful, sweet 20-month-old has a little belly and a modest middle ranking on the growth charts. The pediatrician has never even brought up her weight at all, except to tell us that she’s growing beautifully. She’s had an amazing appetite since birth, which our doctor has celebrated, right along with us. She breastfed like a champ for 14 months. She eats everything we put on her plate: blueberries, shrimp, yogurt, salmon, and pesto pasta are just some of her favorites. She loves food. She’s a great eater. She’s perfectly healthy. And she’s being picked on for something that shouldn’t even be an issue.

It started when my daughter was less than 8-months-old. We were in Florida, on our first vacation as a family of four. One afternoon, I was balancing my daughter on the edge of the pool while we watched her big brother perform tricks in the shallow end. We were all having so much fun. She was kicking her little legs in the water, splashing and laughing, as her brother performed tricks for us. Then, out of nowhere, another mom swimming nearby, called out, “Your baby is so fat!” I was so shocked I mumbled something about her being a totally normal size for her age. But all I could think was, DID THIS B*TCH IN THE POOL REALLY JUST CALL MY BABY FAT?! I was still processing it obsessing about it hours later. In fact, I spent the rest of our vacation making sure that we avoided that woman in the pool (and everywhere else on the grounds of our resort).

Another time, I was excitedly telling a family member about my girl’s incredible appetite — my husband is a food editor, so he especially loves that she’ll eat anything and everything, particularly since our son is a picky eater — and the person responded, “Well, we’re just going to call her chubby girl from now on.” This time I snapped. “Do not call my daughter chubby. In fact, do not comment on her weight at all. She is healthy and perfect.” Full disclosure: This family member’s body image issues deeply affected me growing up, and I refuse to let anyone hurt my daughter in the same way.

More recently, I was shopping with my girl when I started chatting with a mom I didn’t know. We realized our daughters were close in age. Suddenly she blurted out, “Your daughter has a chubby belly! Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it. Mine did.” I was horrified. I couldn’t imagine what inspired this woman to say what she said. I looked over at my sweet, giggling girl and swallowed my rage. It wasn’t appropriate to get upset in front of her or the other mom’s daughter. I gave a terse, “My daughter is perfect, just the way she is. And, hey so is yours! I love the sweet dress she’s wearing.” Then I got the hell away from her before what I really wanted to say just happened to fly out of my mouth and smack her in the face.

I just don’t get it. When did it become OK for people to body shame babies? And yes, the fact that it’s only moms who have criticized my baby (to my face, at least) makes it all even worse. Don’t they, better than anyone, know the love we moms feel for our children? The protectiveness? How could they say anything to another mom that’s anything but loving and kind about her child? It’s absolutely beyond my understanding. And also, don’t they understand that we should be empowering our daughters and lifting them up, not saying words that could crush their self esteem? Babies should be celebrated, adored, and loved — not criticized.

So, to all of you people who think it’s cool to comment on a baby’s weight, just don’t. Especially if it’s my baby. My big kid is off limits, too. Because all those times I’ve kept my mouth shut when I’ve wanted to tell you what I really thought of you and your body shaming ways? Well, let’s just say I’m feeling a lot less polite lately.

© Heather Morgan Shott, as first published on Momtastic.

Why I Absolutely Can’t Put My Kids Before My Husband

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“Are you and daddy getting divorced?”

I was 4-years-old, sitting on the bathroom floor and chatting with my mom while she soaked in the tub, when I blurted out this question. “No, of course not!” she immediately responded. “Why would you think that?” I don’t remember what I said next, but somehow we moved on to a new topic.

Later I heard her whispering on the phone about what I’d said. She must have been thinking, How did my little girl, the one with the stay-at-home mom and Catholic upbringing, know about divorce? It’s not like my parents were screaming and slamming doors all the time. Their unhappiness wasn’t supposed to be obvious, especially not to a little girl. But somehow, even at that young age, I could sense that my parents were deeply unhappy in their marriage.

Turns out they did get divorced—four years later, right around my eighth birthday. The quietly hostile relationship that my parents had when they were married bloomed into an outwardly hostile one during the split, and it stayed that way for years after the divorce papers were signed. By the time my sister and I were pre-teens, our dad had remarried and pretty much vanished from our lives.

The whole thing—the divorce, our father deciding to go his own separate way—was incredibly sad and unfortunate, but it taught me an important lesson: It’s almost impossible to have a happy childhood if you have miserable parents.
 At some point I decided that if I were ever to get married and have kids I would do everything I could to have a happy marriage that lasted for the long haul…and if that wasn’t possible, then at least I would do my best to forge a positive relationship with my ex-husband for the sake of my kids.

Years later, I met an amazing man. I got married and we celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary last June. We’re very happy, and because I want to stay happily married and give our 5-year-old son and 20-month-old daughter the kind of joyful home I didn’t have while I was growing up, I put my marriage first. That’s right. My husband comes before anyone else in my life, including my beloved children.

Before anyone calls me a selfish, terrible mother, please let me explain what I mean by that: I think you’ll see that it’s not as harsh as it sounds. And, in fact, the priorities that we’ve set benefit everyone involved.

Putting my marriage first means I’m protecting the relationship that’s central to my children’s happy childhood; I’m making sure that Chris and I coexist happily despite the changes that we experienced in our relationship after they were born, particularly in those first few months (from the way that we needed to divert our attention and, at times, affections to this new little person in our lives to the mind-boggling lack of sleep that lasted for months and made us argue about silly little things like who forgot to buy more coffee when the last bag ran out).

Putting my marriage first does not mean neglecting our kids; Chris and I are extremely involved parents. We both say constantly that Mason and Poppy are the love of our lives. They’re the greatest things we’ve ever done; we can’t imagine our lives without them. We love them infinity plus. So for our children’s sake (and for ours), here’s how we make our marriage our top priority:

1. We plan child-free couple vacations. This isn’t something my husband and I do every year; in fact, we’ve only done it once so far, but we plan on taking more trips alone in the future. Our first vacation a deux took place when our oldest child, Mason, was 6-months-old.

Too soon? No way. Chris and I needed to go somewhere and reconnect after my extremely difficult pregnancy (which included 30-weeks of morning sickness and extreme anxiety), so my mom graciously volunteered to come to New York to stay with him for five days. She insisted that we needed that time alone, even though I dreaded leaving the baby.

And you know what? She was right. Going on that trip was the best thing we could have done for our marriage. We had sex, we got some much-needed rest and we had wonderful dinners together. By the time we returned to New York, we were a stronger, happier couple—and ready to take on whatever Mason dished out. Bring on those sleepless nights, baby: we can handle it!

2. We present a united front. This means we always have each other’s back, no matter what. When Chris needed to take a job that would keep him in another city five days a week, I supported him. When I told Chris in September that I needed to leave my nightmare job and do something else, he supported me, no further explanation needed.

With our kids, it’s all about being on the same page at all times; we never try to become the favorite parent by caving in to what they want versus what we believe is right. For example, I feel strongly that our oldest child, Mason, needs to go to bed at 8 p.m. unless it’s a special occasion. Chris, on the other hand, would be fine with letting him stay up later…but he knows this issue is important to me, so he respects my wishes.

We’re being consistent with our messaging to Mason so that he doesn’t get confused and so that he feels secure with a consistent routine—but more importantly we’re showing him that we’re united in the decisions that we make, as well as demonstrating unequivocal support and respect for each other.

3. We keep the baby out of the bed. Chris and I made a conscious decision from the very beginning not to co-sleep (although both children were in a bassinet in our bedroom for months), because we wanted a space where we could have sex or cuddle without worrying about a baby sleeping between us. Now that they’re older, they may come into bed with us in the early morning hours, and we’re not going to kick them out; we’re more than happy (and grateful!) for that cuddle time. But when it’s time to go to sleep every night, it’s just the two of us, no exceptions. And since that’s always the way we’ve operated, we’ve never had an issue with them about it. They understand that this space is mommy’s and daddy’s special place, just like their room is theirs.

4. I respect my husband’s needs (and he does the same). Neither of us are morning people, so we take turns getting up with our youngest child, Poppy, at the crack of dawn every day. Sometimes she insists that mommy (or daddy) needs to be up, too, and we’re very clear that she gets the undivided attention of one parent every morning because mommy or daddy is tired and she/he needs some extra rest. Or sometimes mommy needs to go to the gym alone, or daddy needs a night out with friends. We protect the other partner’s needs out of love and respect. Those time-outs make us better parents—and better partners, too.

5. I recognize my husband’s greatness (and he returns the favor). I am Chris’ biggest fan (his publicist, even) and he’s mine. We praise each other to other people, as well as to our son. Every morning when I come out into the living room, dressed for work, Chris points to me and says to the kids, “Isn’t mommy beautiful?” When Chris cooks us one of his amazing dinners, I point to the food and say to them, “Isn’t daddy the best cook?” We compliment each other in front of our kids, both to build his respect and love for the other parent, as well as to show our love and appreciation for each other. It’s our way of keeping the other partner from feeling unimportant, unnoticed, or on the back burner.

*© Heather Morgan Shott, as first published on Your Tango.

To All the Other Moms Who Have Had a Miscarriage

miscarriagegrieving_sizedAugust 2012 marked a low point for me: I lost a baby boy at 10 weeks gestation. The baby had been a surprise, most likely conceived on our 10-year wedding anniversary, and we had been ecstatic. Now he was suddenly gone.

It was a Friday when we learned I had miscarried. We had an appointment with my ob-gyn for our first ultrasound, and we were so excited we both took the day off work. We planned to go out to lunch afterwards to celebrate. Instead, we left the doctor’s office with me sobbing behind huge sunglasses. There was no celebratory lunch, only an immediate appointment with a maternal-fetal specialist to confirm that the pregnancy was no longer viable; my ob-gyn hadn’t been able to find a heartbeat, even though the little baby on the screen looked perfect to us. Two hours later, with the awful news confirmed, I was scheduled to have a D&C (a procedure to remove the baby’s remains) the following morning. My doctor had told me that it could take a month for the baby to leave my body naturally, and I just couldn’t wait that long. I needed to let him go for my own sanity.

On my way out to dinner for my 36th birthday, I had no I was 3-weeks-pregnant. Sadly, that baby would pass away a few weeks later.

On my way to my birthday dinner; I had no idea I was 3-weeks-pregnant. Sadly, that baby would pass away a few weeks later.

 

The procedure itself wasn’t awful, I don’t think. I don’t remember much beyond feeling achingly empty afterwards. I was filled with grief so thick I felt like I was suffocating. I spent the weekend afterward in sweats, sobbing every time my then-3-year-old son wasn’t around, feeling empty and desperately alone. I wrote a letter to Angel Baby. I purchased a heart bracelet to wear in his honor. Groggy from the medication I was given during the procedure, I slept a lot.

The weeks after that were filled with ups and downs. I’d burst into tears at random times. I’d see a newborn out with his mom, or a pregnant lady would walk past me on the street, and I’d feel insanely jealous. My son would innocently say “I want a baby brother,” and I’d have to leave the room until I could pull myself together. I’d see on Facebook that yet another friend was pregnant, and I’d have to swallow feelings of self-pity for my own loss. I even endured some incredibly thoughtless comments from people (I was showing when I lost the baby and had been called out a few times) that left me angry and speechless. In a particularly unbelievable moment, one pregnant co-worker said (while rubbing her swollen belly), “You’re so lucky you can drink now! Hopefully the next one will be good.”

Then, two months after my miscarriage, something miraculous happened: I was pregnant again. I couldn’t believe my good fortune, but as excited as I was I was also terrified. My heart had broken so badly after the loss of my second son, I couldn’t imagine enduring that pain again. The holidays came and we shared our big news with our parents and grandparents, but no one else. I didn’t want the word to get out until after we received the results of our first trimester tests, since we lost our little boy due to a devastating genetic disease (Trisomy 18). I wore layers of clothing trying in vain to hide the little bump that seemed to appear within days of my positive pregnancy test.

Our first ultrasound with baby #3, which took place around 7 weeks, went beautifully. We saw the baby’s gorgeous heartbeat. We left my ob-gyn’s office — this time thrilled, a stark contrast to how we felt after our last ultrasound — and I counted down the days until our 11-week ultrasound. That ultrasound was even better; this time the baby waved at us and filled me with incredible happiness. I held my breath through our first trimester ultrasound and blood tests; once again, all went well. The tests were normal. To calm my anxious mind, we had one more genetic test: Materni21, the new blood test that screens for dozens of genetic diseases with 99 percent accuracy.

At 8 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, we got the best imaginable news: Our Materni21 results came back normal. And then the doctor delivered a huge surprise: We were having a little girl! We were elated and shocked. Elated because our test came back normal, which had been my biggest concern. Shocked because we were having a little girl — we had been convinced it was another boy. Of course we were delighted too; we didn’t care what our baby’s gender was, we just wanted a healthy baby.

It’s been two years since my miscarriage, and I can honestly say that getting pregnant again helped heal my heart more than anything else. It wasn’t that the baby I was carrying replaced the baby I lost; I’ll never forget him, he’ll always have a special place in my heart. It’s just that I had a much more profound appreciation for the miracle of life, and how delicate and fragile it really is. And I was so thankful for a third opportunity to become a mom again. (My daughter, Poppy Belle, was born healthy and happy in August 2014; she just turned 20-months-old!)

But here’s the thing: Those first six months, especially, were so difficult for me. I sobbed on February 27, 2014, the day that would have been my second son’s due date. I cried for the little boy I would never meet, and for his terrible fate — even as I celebrated the new life growing inside of me. I reached out to a close friend and told her how I was feeling, and in consoling me she said, “I’m happy that you won’t have to go through the day wondering if you’ll ever get pregnant again.”

Her words gave me perspective, and so have the words of other friends. Talking to moms who have had miscarriages has been especially helpful. If you’ve lost a baby recently, and you can stand to talk about it, I encourage you to reach out for support. I couldn’t have gotten through those first six months after my miscarriage without the phone calls, emails, and text messages that I’ve received from other women, some strangers, who have been in my shoes — and I’m trying to pay that support forward by writing about what I’ve been through and reaching out to other moms that I know who have lost a baby. My message today is that it does get better. There is hope, you will begin to heal. I promise.

© Heather Morgan Shott, as first published on Momtastic.com

Visit the New High Chair Times!

Greetings, mamas and daddies!

High Chair Times is now part of Parents.com! Mason and I are so jazzed — and we hope you’ll visit us at our new home (we’ll be posting there instead of here!).

We’ve had lots of new food adventures, so please come visit and let us know what you think.

We’re looking forward to bringing you more food adventures — and hearing all about yours!

Love,
Heather & Mason